True Diversity feat. SHIFT by techSPARK

We caught up with Joyann Boyce, Culture & Inclusion Consultant at techSPARK as part of our “True Diversity” content series.

The purpose of our initiative and series “True Diversity” is to feature, collate and showcase the breadth of initiatives and views that are all on a mission to work towards True Diversity and Inclusion. We capture and share what these initiatives are all about, who they are, what they do, why it matters and how businesses and potential employers can get involved.

Tony @ADLIB: Let’s start with the need for Diversity and Inclusion, what’s your take – why is it so important?

Joyann: Have you ever been to a tech event and seen an all white, all male and all non-disabled line-up? You probably answered yes – that’s why we need diversity!

Growth and innovation doesn’t happen in an echo chamber, therefore, without diversity we remain stagnant as a tech community.

Tony @ADLIB: Can you share a little bit more about what you do – what’s the purpose and mission of your initiative/ programme/ organisation?

Joyann: Bristol hosts a plethora of events; there is so much happening in the tech sector here. Alongside this, there are so many experts prepared to discuss everything from data science to UX design. Unfortunately, too many of these events don’t have diverse representation – by this we mean women, those in the LGBT+ community, trans and non-binary individuals, different ethnicities and different disabilities.

When speaking with event organisers, they repeatability say, ‘We couldn’t find anyone’ or ‘There are no x people in this sector outside of London.’ But I know speakers from a range of diverse backgrounds with technical experience are  already out there and are keen to get involved, so it’s not a lack of people that is the problem.

Once we had identified that the issue is a case of people having limited diverse networks, we decided to design the SHIFT Speaker Database to make an accessible resource that event organisers can browse when searching for speakers. Rather than tapping into the same circles, anyone can access the database to ensure their event has a diverse lineup of experts.

The speakers were keen to be involved as they are able to list their expertise and topics of interest. It gives them an opportunity to speak about their expertise, rather then only being asked to talk about ‘What it’s like? Or what it means to be an X person in X role’.

Our primary focus is on facilitating a platform for the underrepresented voices across the sector, whilst highlighting the wealth of tech and digital public speakers who happen to be diverse. Whether someone is a well established speaker, or is new to the stage, we encourage them to get involved. Crucially, they don’t have to speak on why they’re different – unless they want to. They speak on what they’re experts in.

Tony @ADLIB: What do you consider potential consequences of a lack of Diversity and Inclusion and what do you see as the main benefits of an inclusive workforce?

Joyann: Tech is the future and if marginalised and underrepresented people aren’t included, we’re going to be completely excluded from the future. In every single thing we do, we need to be seen and known as experts. In addition, 75% of companies with diverse and inclusive decision-making teams will exceed their financial targets. A study found that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperformed their less inclusive counterparts by 50%.

The talent is there; it’s not a pipeline issue. We need to keep emphasising this, otherwise the tech sector is going to miss out on its true potential. A diverse and inclusive workforce brings with it more innovation, more expertise and more growth. Without this, we’re limiting the development of our industry and community.

Tony @ADLIB: How can businesses and potential employers get involved with your initiative/ programme/ organisation?

Joyann: Event organisers can get involved by searching on the database when they’re looking for their next speaker and they can contact the speakers directly. If event organisers would like a warm introduction, they can submit a request to myself, but we’ve not limited access to the speakers. Their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles are connected, so they can be contacted.

Just engage with people who happen to be diverse in the subject matter that you’re looking for. I highly recommend that you look to the speakers for their speaking expertise, but not just because they’re diverse.

If you have booked speakers and see they’re not on the database, please do encourage them to join it. The more people can share the database with their networks the better – we’re always on the lookout for more speakers to join and to tell more event organisers about its existence.

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Tony Allen